College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Nutrition & Food Science

December Graduates Going Above and Beyond

AGNR recognizes five standout December graduates.
Image Credit: 
Edwin Remsberg

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources celebrated the send-off of 73 undergraduate and 39 graduate students during the winter commencement ceremony held on December 21st.

Of this latest graduating class, several stand out among this crop of students not just for their accomplishments here at the University of Maryland, but for the promising futures that await them:  

Barrett Wessel: B.S. -- Environmental Science and Technology (specialization in Ecological Technology Design, Soil Science minor)

 “AGNR has offered me some excellent opportunities,” said Barrett Wessel, who will be graduating Summa Cum Laude (“with highest honors”). “Aside from courses, projects, and field trips, I have been able to work in the soil fertility lab, perform extensive field work, and complete a capstone research project in the greenhouse on campus.”

Wessel was elected an undergraduate representative to the University Senate, named a Phillip Merrill Presidential Scholar, and awarded an Undergraduate Researcher of the Year Award, all the while working as a lab technician for Dr. Ray Weil, competing with the Soil Judging Team, and finding time to enjoy reading, hiking, writing letters, being in the outdoors, and learning more about “several scientific disciplines from soil science to astronomy.”

Wessel will be pursuing a PhD in Soil and Watershed Sciences at UMD, specifically studying the subaqueous soils of the Chesapeake Bay.

Sara Mack: B.S. – Environmental Science and Policy (concentration in Environmental Geosciences and Restoration, Soil Science minor)

Also graduating Summa Cum Laude, Sara Mack is working on an Honors Thesis investigating a new method to assess the decomposition rates of organic matter in soils.

Mack is interested in “pedology (the study of soils in their natural habitiat), soil formation, and interfaces between the physical and biologic components of ecosystems (such as mineralogy, microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, etc.),” as well as aquascaping and a plant collection she has been working on in an ecology class. Mack is a member of the Soil Judging Team and has been working as a lab/field technician in various soil science laboratories.

“I think my dream as of right now would be to have a career in research as a soil scientist or pedologist,” Mack said. “I never want to stop learning and feel like you can always ask more questions to be answered through science and research.”

Mack will be attending UMD for graduate school, working under Dr. Martin Rabenhorst on a national wetland soil mapping project.

Ella Clarke: B.S. – Environmental Science and Policy (concentration in economics), B.A. – Spanish Language and Literature

California native Ella Clarke is currently an intern at the US Global Change Research Program in Washington, DC, is serving as Vice President of the co-ed academic honors fraternity Phi Sigma Pi, and was the undergraduate TA for ENSP101 and ENSP102 during her junior year. A lover of nature, photography and hiking/backpacking, Clarke was able to combine her personal and academic interests by obtaining an internship with the American Hiking Society through the ENSP database, gaining credit for ENSP386.

 “After graduation, I will be taking the LSAT so that I can work for a few years, get some real world experience, and then go back to law school to get my environmental law degree,” Clarke said. “My dream job is to work on environmental justice issues and climate change adaptation and resilience at an international level, ideally in a Spanish-speaking country.”

Dorsa Afsharjavan: B.L.A. – Landscape Architecture (Sustainability Studies minor)

Dorsa Afsharjavan serves as Vice President of the Iranian Students Foundation and Secretary of the Student Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and is an active member of the Primannum Honor Society and AGNR's AG Council.

Passionate about traveling, photography and experiencing as many cultures as possible, with help from the Landscape Architecture Program, Afsharjavan was able to travel to Enea Garden Design in Miami, FL and the Monetverde Institute in Costa Rica where, alongside architecture students from the University of Buffalo, Afsharjavan worked specifically with local water systems and water consumption.

“I hope to work for a private landscape architecture firm which specializes in national and international projects ranging from private to public projects, at all scales,” Afsharjavan said. “I plan to travel as much as possible right after graduation and hope to continue traveling throughout my career as a landscape architect.”

Haiqiu Huang: PhD – Food Science

“UMD has a very passionate, diverse, and forward-looking campus culture, and it influenced me in many ways,” soon-to-be PhD Food Science graduate Haiqiu Huang said. “When I look back at the past five years, I am happy about the academic achievement I have accomplished, and I also notice that I have changed so much [into] a better person.”

The courses offered by AGNR have allowed Huang to “broaden” his view, specifically noting that, “aside from my core courses, I think the immunology class offered by ANSC was particularly helpful in my graduate study [as] my doctoral research focused on the interaction between food components and the human immune system.”

Huang has been working with the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, getting trained in the state-of-the-art facilities to prepare him for his work as a post-doctoral research fellow there and at the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements for the next two years.

“My career goal is to facilitate the transfer of nutrition science to policy and food industry,” Huang explained. “With my research background, I can bridge the gap between research and practice, and help the food and nutraceutical industry make safer and healthier foods.”

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